On Wednesday, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) executives will take the stage to announce the company's latest products. Of course, if history is any indication, the major new product announcement next week will be new versions of the latest iPhone. Indeed, the tech giant is rumored to release three new iPhones with iPhone X-like corner-to-corner displays.

However, even though the iPhone is undoubtedly Apple's most important product in terms of its contribution to the company's overall business, there's another product category investors should have their eyes on next week: wearables. Both Apple Watch and AirPods are quickly rising in importance to Apple as sales of the two devices skyrocket, signaling the big potential for Apple's wearables business.

The ever-active Apple rumor mill hasn't provided any clear indications there will be new versions of AirPods released during next week's event (of course, it's always possible). But a new version of Apple Watch is expected. Here's what to expect from Apple's latest version of the smartwatch -- and why it's so important.

A packed Apple store after the iPhone X launch

Image source: Apple.

Apple Watch Series 4

It's all but confirmed that Apple will launch a new Apple Watch next week. Not only have purported images of the new device leaked, but the timing makes sense; a refreshed Apple Watch during Apple's annual iPhone event would corroborate with the timing of last year's Apple Watch unveiling.

The watch is rumored to have a similar outer form factor as its predecessor while featuring an approximately 15% larger display. This will be achieved by having narrower bezels, according to Apple rumor website MacRumors. The recently leaked image of the smartwatch suggests this speculation about the new device's display is true.

Other rumored specifications for Apple's next Apple Watch include longer battery life and improved health monitoring.

Wearables: A key catalyst

A look at Apple's recent financial results confirms the importance of Apple Watch -- and wearables overall -- to the tech giant's business. "Other products," the segment in which Apple accounts for its Apple Watch, AirPods, Beats products, and other accessories, has grown at very rapid rates recently. Other products revenue was up 38% and 37% year over year in Apple's second and third quarters of fiscal 2018, respectively. This growth even outpaced services, which grew 31% year over year in both quarters.

An excited customer holds an Apple Watch 3 Series in a box at an Apple Store

Image source: Apple.

Apple CEO Tim Cook highlighted the company's strong performance in wearables in its most recent earnings call:

Our third highlight of the quarter is the outstanding results in wearables, which comprises Apple Watch, AirPods, and Beats, and was up over 60% year-over-year with growth accelerating from the March quarter. Our wearables revenue exceeded $10 billion over the last four quarters, a truly remarkable accomplishment for a set of products that has only been on the market for a few years.

Sure, $10 billion of wearables revenue pales in comparison to the $158 billion of iPhone revenue Apple has generated over the past 12 reported months. But such strong growth in a nascent segment not only demonstrates how Apple can expand into new product categories, but it strengthens the tech giant's overall ecosystem with yet another leg of its business and additional gateways to its fast-growing services segment.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.